Washington | NASA’s ingenious mini-helicopter, which landed on Mars in February aboard the Perseverance rover, landed alone on the first night on the Red Planet, the U.S. agency said, emphasizing that it was a “major step” ahead of its first flight.
The ultralight helicopter, which looks like a large drone, was detached from the Perseverance rover on Saturday, landing on Mars on February 18.
The ingenuity used to rely on the rover’s power, but now relies on its own solar panels to survive by warming up on cold Martian nights when temperatures drop to -90 els Celsius.
NASA said in a statement on Monday that the mini-helicopter was “a major milestone” as it emerged from the freezing Martian night.
“This is the first time that ingenuity has been isolated on the surface of Mars,” said Mimi Ang, head of the ingenuity project at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
“We now have confirmation that this is the right insulation, the right heaters and that his batteries have enough power to withstand the cold nights, which is a great achievement for the team. We are happy to prepare ingenuity for the first Test flight,” she continued.
Over the next few days, the ingenuity engine and sensor will be tested.
If all goes well, the mini-helicopter should complete its first test flight, which will not take place until the evening of April 11, JPL said.
If the experiment is successful, it will be a real credit, because the Martian air density is only 1% of the Earth’s atmosphere.
It was the first aircraft of a motorized vehicle on another planet. The ingenuity of four feet, a body and two superposed propellers weighs only 1.8 kg and is 1.2 m from one end of its blades to the other.
NASA has revealed that a small piece of cloth from the Wright Brothers plane that took off a century ago in North Carolina in the United States was kept on ingenuity and is therefore now found on Mars.